Skip to main content

Full text of "The Gay Genius"

See other formats

THE TWO BROTHERS                         121

Therefore, if a man can spend all his days in leisure during a life o£
seventy years, he will practically have lived one hundred and forty.
That's an easy way of achieving long life."

"r While the two brothers always agreed in their political viewpoints,
and had taken an identical stand in politics, their characters were really
different. Tseyu was steady, practical, reserved, and given to few words;
Tungpo was volatile, expansive, loquacious, naive and inclined to dis-
regard the consequences of his actions. Tseyu was considered depend-
able by his friends and associates, while Tungpo often frightened people
by his outspoken genius and his fun and frivolity. Among his close
associates, Tungpo bubbled, joked, and made atrocious puns. He gave
the practical people of the world the nervous feeling that at any
moment he might tell the truth—as if a thing's being true were enough
treason for telling it!

v In literary style, too, there was a difference—the difference suggested
by that between Henry and William James, Tungpo being William
and Tseyu being Henry. By all the indications of their separate genius,
William James should have written novels and Henry James treatises
on psychology and philosophy. Nevertheless, the world stands to gain
by the injection of William James's brilliance and humour into the
usually dull textbooks on psychology and philosophy, and by the solid
structure of Henry James's thoughts and observations on human nature
in the field of fiction. Tseyu had not half the brilliance of his brother,
"But his writings had enough substance and depth to make him a major
writer on his own merit.

Tungpo knew that his brother's advice was right, and if he had had
the quieter temperament of his younger brother, he would have fol-
lowed if. But it was not a question of what he thought, but what he
felt. It is difficult to avoid the term ch 'i when we discuss the character
of Su Tungpo, for every critic of the poet mentions this Mencian word
when he comes to summarise Su Tungpo's character. Ch'i is a common
word meaning gas, air, atmosphere, spirit, force, drive, stored-up anger.
In Mencius it was a philosophic notion akin to Bergson's elan vital, the
vital, impelling force in'a human personality. What distinguished
greater personalities from lesser people was often the difference in the
ienergy, drive, dash, and vivacity of such men. In Mencian philosophy
it means the great moral impetus, or, more simply, the noble spirit of
man that makes for good and righteousness, a spirit inherent in all
men, either nourished and grown strong or weakened as one gets along
in life. In the case of Su Tungpo it was synonymous with a great
spirit, the spirit of man raised to the «th degree, big and strong and
impetuous, demanding expression by its own vitality. It was this some-
thing tremendous in his spirit, a big, booming force, that Su's critics
and admirers constantly spoke of. Mencius felt this force in himself,